Rambus euro patent ruling is Curate's Egg

Good, bad and ugly

Rambus yesterday announced a mixed bag of results from the European Patent Office (EPO), related to Rambus' patent 0 525 068.

Crucially, the EPO "affirmed the novelty and inventiveness of the patent, rejecting numerous 'prior art' arguments raised by three major semiconductor manufacturers", Rambus writes. This is a victory for the litigious fast memory designer.

However, the EPO has muddied the waters a little for Rambus, in Europe anyhow. It has applied a "unique aspect of European patent law, confirming the validity of Rambus' patent only as further amended to conform more closely to the language as originally filed in 1990".

This reverses the EPO's previous position, and Rambus is to appeal. The new ruling will complicate and delay litigation in Europe, according to the company.

But the decision will not affect litigation in the US where "different law applies and more extensive claim amendments are permitted", it says.

At IDF this week, Intel confirmed that it was preparing to drop support for Rambus RDRAM memory in upcoming workstation chipsets in favour of a DDR pureplay.

Intel continues to support RDRAM on the desktop, alongside its preferred DDR option - RDRAM does, after all, still deliver better performance than DDR rivals, although usually, it's more expensive (the price positioning depends very much on whether or not DDR is in production shortage). ®